Forest Sangha Newsletter July 1989

Gratitude to Ajahn Chah; Jayasaro Bhikkhu
Image of the Dhamma; Sister Viveka
Living in the World with Dhamma; Ajahn Chah
Part of the Lineage: pt.I; Aj. Sucitto interviews Aj. Jagaro
What is the Devon Vihara? Supanno & Pasadaka
Out on a Limb; Venerable Kovido
Lineage is more than History; Ajahn Sucitto

Question Time; Aj Sumedho
Allowing Silence; Aj Sucitto

Part of the Lineage: Part I
Ajahn Jagaro, the abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery in Australia, was a guest at Amaravati during the Winter 1988-89, Before he returned, he passed on some informal comments in an interview with Ajahn Sucitto.

Ajahn Sucitto:
What do you see are the similarities and the differences between the British monasteries and Bodhinyana?

Ajahn Jagaro:
Ajahn Sumedho and myself were established in the forest monastery tradition in Thailand, and in both cases found ourselves ending up in city settings which were unsuitable for the spiritual health of the Sangha. The differences which arise are in how it has: developed, due to the physical situation of each country. Perth is small city; it is easy to get permission to build, and the climatic conditions lend themselves to a forest monastery similar to the monasteries in Thailand. So we evolved in that direction. But the need for Western teaching made it obvious that we'd have to maintain a centre in the city.

We tend to keep to the Thai form, because we have a very strong Thai community supporting us, because we're close to Thailand and because we have Thai monks visiting us.

Here in England the conditions are very different. The situation lends itself to something like Chithurst: an old place that you do up. That means that the community has to live together under one roof and the monastic life style is considerably different from Thailand. There is an emphasis on meetings, and on community spirit. The climatic conditions are also very different here, requiring adaptations of dress: You need socks, boots and hats and jackets.

Going back to a traditional situation you see the beauty of gratitude, the beauty of respect, the beauty of generosity.

Here you've got every kind of Buddhist convention and tradition, as well as many that are of no specific tradition. There are certain tensions with the conventions, because not everybody wants the Thai Theravada.

Buddhism itself has been in England for so long. There has to be a much more ecumenical approach than we've had in Perth. Also you've got one million people in Perth and that's all, for two or three thousand kilometres around you; whereas in England you've got 50 million people and then the great population of Europe. This sense of being just a very small group - only a couple of monks for the first three years - and an outpost, tends to make us more cautious. The monastery doesn't want to become too radical because that cuts you off even more!

You live comparatively close to Thailand and you go there yourself every year or so. Do you see any advantage in being able to go back to a traditional situation?

I certainly see great advantage in the exchange of monks between the different places so that they see slightly different situations in different countries. Going back to Thailand is an experience that can be very valuable for monks. It brought home to me that I was part of the big Sangha, the tradition, and that has a tremendous strength. It always gave me a reflection an what we were doing in Perth, and also how we were forgetting and maybe losing some useful things.

Such as?

Well, in the monastic form some of the emphasis on what we call acariyavatta - and respect to seniority. Also that separation between the laity and the monks: sometimes its a beneficial thing to keep that, rather than just becoming "buddies". Going back to a traditional situation you see the beauty of gratitude, the beauty of respect, the beauty of generosity, and you remember how there are good things to encourage. The refuge of Sangha is needed for the monks and nuns - maybe one can go over-board with the propagation of Buddhism.

I think for any monk, going back to Thailand is a useful way of re-establishing oneself as part of this lineage. It's not just your thing - you're a disciple of Ajahn Chah and you're part of the Sangha as a whole.

*The duties of attendance on a senior monk.